February 19, 2012

Many inventions have changed our lives

Kaye and I were testing each other recently at the breakfast table. It was Valentine's Day, and we had finished exchanging our 400,000 round of kisses and hugs. I tossed out a question across the coffee and toast: "Can you name an invention in your lifetime that made a big difference for you?"

Without missing a beat, she got up and began sorting dirty clothes. She answered: "The automatic washing machine." I scoured the Internet and learned that the first automatic clothes washer was introduced by Bendix in 1937. If you were lucky enough to have one, you had to screw it to the floor unless you wanted it to walk all over the place. It lacked a suspended tub.

Kaye didn't own a washing machine when she started her family in the late 1940s. It was a matter of washing clothes by hand in one tub and wringing them out in another.

Out back we still have an old wooden rack designed to hold the galvanized wash tubs. The first Laundromat opened in this country in 1934. I have no idea when they came to Plattsburgh, but I remember an early one on Brinkerhoff Street.

I didn't meet Kaye until 1966, and we weren't married until 1974. Modern wives and mothers have no clue what marvelous matriarchs such as Kaye went through to raise their large families without modern conveniences. She had to hand-wash cloth diapers and use safety pins to keep them on the little bottoms. Disposable diapers didn't come along until the '50s and weren't really in this area for many years after that.

Our children rode with us in cars without seat belts or baby carriers. Air bags weren't invented until 1952, and we certainly didn't have them in any of our cars for years. The automotive shoulder and seat-belt combinations were invented in 1959.

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